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Understanding Ethnic Differences: The Roles of Geography and Trade

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  • Andrew Dickens

    () (Department of Economics, Brock University)

Abstract

The impact of ethnic divisions on economic growth and development are well understood, yet there is little known about the source of these divisions. In this study I take the economic importance of ethnic group differences as given, and explore the geographic foundations of group differences. I construct a georeferenced data set to examine the border region of spatially adjacent ethnic groups, together with variation in the set of potentially cultivatable crops at the onset of the Columbian Exchange, to identify how variation in land productivity impacts linguistic differences between adjacent ethnic groups. I find that ethnic groups separated across geographic regions with high variation in land productivity are more similar in language than groups separated across more homogeneous regions. I then provide evidence in support of the proposed mechanism: historical trade was more frequent in these high variation regions and the frequency of trade served as a social tie between culturally distinct ethnic groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Dickens, 2020. "Understanding Ethnic Differences: The Roles of Geography and Trade," Working Papers 1901, Brock University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:brk:wpaper:1901
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    File URL: https://brocku.ca/repec/pdf/1901.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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